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Old 29th April 2010, 01:06   #1
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Default Ducati 999 – The half sister of ….(666) [Pics]


In our youth, the spring of our life, we brim with energy and constant restlessness. Always looking ways to satiate this restlessness. Some take to travel, some do hiking, some takes up sports and some into all things that go fast. Like most people here, I belonged to the last category. While cars are great, bikes always teased you with their mystery and forbidden delight. And they’re so much more attainable when you’re young.

There I was in my second year in MIT, Manipal, restless, soccer alone just didn’t do it for me, I decided to broach the subject to my dad.

“Dad, I need a bike.”
Surprisingly, “What bike?”
“Bullet”, Java never looked safe to me, and of course, Bullet was THE king.
“OK”. (new Bullet apprx. INR 12,000)

This was the beginning of a three-year period of intense happiness, adventure and fulfillment, which I have not been able to recapture since, and not for lack of trying. I rode the wheels of that bike almost everywhere in South India – Goa, Bangalore, Kerala, TN. Most holidays, I put it on the Malabar Express to Kerala and my friend and I rode it all over the Western Ghats to Peermade, Kuttikkanam, Idukki, Thekkadi, Munnar and every unknown place in between, over and over again. This was way before these places became so well known. [Note to self - must get those pictures when I am in India next and post it here.] Wherever we stopped, a small group would gather around the two weirdoes with jackets, duffel bags, helmets and a walkman with miniature headphones that fit inside our helmets (Steely Dan, Floyd, Traffic and such always on). Once they get past their initial shyness, the usual queries of innocence;

“Isn’t this a BULLET?” accompanied by absolute look of awe…
“Where you from?”
“From around here only”
“How fast does this go?”
“Pretty fast” acting totally casual.
“Don’t you bikers keep in touch with each other?”
Never knew how to answer this one. Didn’t want to disappoint so usually “Yah, with some of them”.

Thinking of those days still brings wistfulness and always a heavy heart. Strangely, now when I think about it, the measly 18 bhp was more than sufficient for those days of heavy riding. Then suddenly, I graduated and my sister “ask dad for a car”.

Dad: “Now what?”
“RD 350”
Total surprise on his face “OK”. I know. He’s cool.

Going from the Bullet to RD (would you believe it, INR 18000) was like life itself. Transitioning from the carefree student life to an intense busybee world. Moved to Bombay and then two years in Bangalore (of a different laid back era). Just like the bike itself, those years too were a flash and over quickly. The girls, friends, memories, still remain deeply etched though.


Many years, many experiences passed. I was blessed to own many cars, and still do some of them, that we dreamed of in our youth. My 911 experience is here and the Pontiac roadster here. But as years rolled by, somewhere an indefinable ache remained. My love for motorbikes has always been strong but after the RD, somehow never pursued. My eyes would always follow any motorcycle on the road, even today. I had become totally enthralled with MotoGP and Superbike series and found them to be far more exciting and captivating than F1. Finally in 2006, not getting any younger, I decided that I could not continue any longer without addressing this somehow.

Me: “I’m thinking of buying a bike.”
Wife: “Aren’t all these cars enough?”
“Do you want me to stay young or join the minivan crowd?” (hehe)

Having elicited a reluctant nod, I now had to decide what bike. Actually, that was quite easy. Ducati it’ll be, like Laverda or Cagiva, the stuff of dreams and mysterious longings of long ago forgotten wall posters of my youth. I had it narrowed down to the Supersport 1000 model which was around 90 bhp and cost around $11,000. You could get a Jap liter bike with around 140 bhp for that price but they were never in any serious contention. I located an exclusive Duc dealer (for over 20 years), Crooked River Motorcycle in Akron, OH (aka the home of Lebron James). Recently, he has added the incredible MV Agusta line. Check it out, if you’re interested. Met Jeff, the owner, duc racer and an all around great guy.

Me: “I’m interested in the Supersport 1000. How much is it?”
Jeff: “$11k something. This Black Superbike here is a much better deal and bike. It’s listed at 18k, I’ll give it to you for 16k with an interest rate of 2.9%.”

This unfair complication completely scrambled my brain with indecision like spaghetti. There goes my well laid out plan of attack for bargaining out the window.

My Brain – Left side: “Don’t listen to the guy. Stick to your original plan, deal for the Supersport.”
Right side: “Are you stupid, WE’RE TALKING SUPERBIKE HERE. AND BLACK. S***w the Supersport.”
Me: Yah, S***w you Supersport. “Let’s deal, Jeff.”

And I became the owner of a Ducati 999 Superbike. Having never ridden anything bigger than an RD 350, my riding skills now had to be seriously upgraded to ride a superbike. I started religiously reading the ‘Sport Riding Techniques’ by Nick Ienatsch and constantly practice his techniques. This is a compulsory read for any sport bike enthusiast for improving your skills and safety. I read this every year over and over again to hone my skills and drill them into my brain.

Ducati 999 – The half sister of ….(666) [Pics]-toys_11.jpg
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However, living in Cleveland, Ohio, there weren’t too many twisties around. It was mostly flat and thinking back, I’m grateful. It gave me plenty of seat time in relatively risk free environment to get used to the bike. And then in the summer of 2006, the company moved me to our Columbus, OH office. Columbus, it so happens is within 30 minutes of southeast ohio which is endowed with never ending twisties, in short, sport bike heaven, albeit very challenging. I got myself enrolled in ‘Basic Riding Course’ that gave me a very good grounding on motorcycling techniques. I also joined the local Ducati rider group and was now a bonafide ‘Ducatista’.

My CTS-V and 740iL in the background. Both sold now.
Ducati 999 – The half sister of ….(666) [Pics]-toys_2.jpg
Ducati 999 – The half sister of ….(666) [Pics]-toys_12.jpg

The Ride

Soon, the group invited me for a ride with them. All excited, I had the bike washed, waxed, chain-greased and whatever ‘elsed’ two days before the ride. The morning of the ride, got up early and fired her up. She greeted me with her tremendous rumble, a mixture of the Bullet rumble and a machine gun staccato. A sound so much more preferable to the wailing of the Jap liter bikes. A sound so glorious you really have to be a child to appreciate its awesomeness. I rev it every time I pass kids just to see their eyes light up and see those cute pointy fingers. Sorry, Jap bikes just don’t compare. One of these days I’ll post a video after I get the bike out of the winter storage.

A similar ride with a smaller group
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We meet at the collection point, about 7 riders. Soon we’re on our way, me sticking to the back of the group, the second last guy, the last guy being the sweeper and the most experienced (Thankfully, I have since progressed to being the lead in lot of our rides and also arrange quite a few rides for the group). This way I could study the lines of the more experienced guys before me. The ride is around 250 miles total with mostly twisties, ranging from 15 mph to 55 mph. The Duc is impatient on the straight-aways leading to the twisties, her committed seating position not conducive to long straight rides. Her L-Twin engine roaring, imploring to ‘mooove’. I can feel her straining to unleash her 140 bhp. Our group leader Steve, speeds up occasionally to keep all the riders happy. I can feel her relief, we touch 130 mph on stretches we know are lightly patrolled. She reminds me to be gentle on the throttle. A hard grip can result in a minor bump to cause an unexpected wheelie and maybe lose control. The long straight ride has my shoulder muscles throbbing. “Where are the damn twisties?”

Ahh, there they are. We’re eagerly into the twisties. I can feel the enthusiasm of the group surging. The bikes have hit their stride. My lady is singing beautifully. And what a song it is. Every curve, every gearshift is a roar of approval. She is teaching me her ballet. She is a great teacher. 15 or 50 mph curve, the degree of difficulty does not matter. It’s only a different note of her amazing song. For a willing pupil, she’ll make you THE ballerina. I understand what Bayliss and Stoner live for. It’s the ducati song, the greatest of them all.

The group is a symphony now. Each rider a cog of an impressive mechanical orchestra. No one wants to be left out of this. The curves are coming fast and relentless. The riders and their machines are slicing thru them like a relentless monsoon thru a narrow gorge. I try to concentrate on the road instead of the rear tire of the bike ahead. The butt moves of the seat to the inside of every curve. The knee out, the puck inches from the ground. The lean angle infinite. The bike holds its line as precise as you imagine. If there is a mistake, it won’t be the bikes’. Oh, what a dance... She’s got me into something I cannot escape. This embrace is forever. I’m not tired any more, the throbbing shoulder a distant memory now. She has taught me the precision of her gears, her amazing one finger brake, I don’t even remember when I last used it. She has total control of me and me over her, true symbiosis. She conveys every thought I have before I even think it.

The adrenaline rush is too much. The exhilaration is unbearable. Yet there is no end in sight. We are soon into less challenging twisties with 40 to 55 mph curves. The monsoon has turned into a tornado. The pace frenetic, each rider and machine oblivious of the others. Each one alone in his fantasy. Mind has become a giant vacuum. Why yoga, this surely is the greatest high. How long can this continue? Forever!! The symphony is reaching a crescendo. Duc is relentless in her roaring pursuit of purity. I am helpless but in total control. Her precision is mind-boggling. She’s through the curves before I even finish imagining my line, within millimeters of it. I’ve become almost purely existential, a neuron, a basic element, pure, unadulterated. Curve after curve, this relentless, effortless pursuit of pure joy. The countryside holds its breadth watching this incredible display. There are no smiles from the passing cars, just open bewilderment, their mouths frozen at their last position. Thankfully, the first planned stop is here. We alight, no one speaks. Words are futile. I need a cigarette although I don’t smoke any more. No one is smiling, expressions are meaningless. We simply stare nowhere, befuddled. It takes a while before we recover and then as sudden, smiles around. Passersby too are smiling without knowing why. I’m already thinking of the next leg, smiling, longing, dreading.

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The rambunctious lady 911s’ reign is over. The new queen is here and nothing on four wheels will ever displace her. It simply is not probable.

The Reign

Living with this Italian maiden is like living with any Italian. Demanding, finicky and impossibly stylish. No one mistakes the 999 for YamaSuKaHondas. She needs here timing belts replaced every two years, whether you ride it or not. Every 5000 miles major service costing around $1000. It’s definitely not for everyone but for the person who wants her and only her, worth every penny. She almost never sees an interstate and definitely no daily commute. In fact, she has never been to downtown. Riding on city streets with traffic lights, will soon have your butt nicely roasted like a tandoori chicken by her under-the-seat exhausts. She is and will remain a weekend canyon carver.

The Mods

Like every other duc nut, I too have done some mods to her. Principally,
  • 999R Forged Aluminum Wheels ($3000)
  • Termignioni Exhaust ($2500)
  • D&D Gold Racing chain
  • 44 teeth rear sprocket
  • MPL Tuning Slipper clutch ($800)
  • Dark Racing double screen
  • Too many carbon fiber bits
These mods have significantly improved her characteristics and dropped her weight by almost thirty pounds.

My personal motto is AGATT (All gear, All The Time). My gear consists of;
  • MotoGP Kangaroo leather single suite
  • Ducati Helmet
  • Kevlar Back Protector
  • MotoGP gloves with knuckle protector
  • Sidi Riding Boots
I beg potential riders to wear appropriate gear all the time. It’s better to sweat than bleed.

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I believe the new Ducs will be available soon or are already available in India. The 1098 superbike that replaced the 999 is an incredible bike. I find the design a little too generic but its hugely popular. This bike is simply not meant for prolonged highway riding due to its committed seating position. I hope some of the readers will have the fortune to ride this incredible bike. This bike will not beat a ‘Busa on a straight line but a ‘Busa will not even see the back end of a duc on a twisty and I speak from experience. Please remember, the limitation is the rider, always the rider. Only a Rossi or a Stoner can ever hope to ride superbikes anywhere above 70% of their potential. These bikes can get riders into trouble in the blink of an eye.

Thanks and hope you enjoyed my review.
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Old 29th April 2010, 05:40   #2
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That's fantastic; just out of curiosity, what made you settle 999 & not 996 or 1098? I think you did the best thing with Termignioni Exhaust; and you're right, in India, we have the next to next model of 1098; 1198R

PS - pls do some justice - would like to hear the idling & the roar, some video
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Old 29th April 2010, 07:37   #3
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That is one long post and that my friend is a mean looking baddie. Congratulations. I am going to meet you very soon.
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Old 29th April 2010, 08:01   #4
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Dont know what to say after reading this. The bike is awesome and your writing skills complement. Hope to hear more from you and see more pics of the baddie..
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Old 29th April 2010, 08:54   #5
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No time to read now (gotta get to work), but you have an old BMW and a Ducati 999!!

What a burn so early in the day. You have a collection most of us can only dream about!
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Old 29th April 2010, 09:30   #6
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What a writeup ! Brilliant ! Its like a wake up call for bikers ( and sleepers ).

“Do you want me to stay young or join the minivan crowd?” (hehe)
lol; that's a dangerous comment.

One of these days I’ll post a video after I get the bike out of the winter storage
Hope you can upload one soon.

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Old 29th April 2010, 10:51   #7
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now, this is a post I was waiting to read. Excellent writeup - Duc is always a class apart. Please add the video - would love to hear the termignonis roar.
you have got a nice collection of wheels, and nice riding gear too.
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Old 29th April 2010, 11:18   #8
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Well.. what can one say. Since Dhoom, we all have wished for Hayabusas.
You have totally shaken our belief system.
As such it shouldn't matter, 'cause I shall never be able to practically afford either a Ducati or a "YamaSuka Honda"! But still..

What do we lust for now?!
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Old 29th April 2010, 11:21   #9
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I must say that this review is superbly written. You have managed to describe every emotion that you experienced in the process of owning and riding the machine.

I just love this color. Killer stealth looks and could almost go unnoticed at night.... and in the day too when you whizz past some minivan.

do keep this thread updated as and when possible.

all the best, thanks for sharing and ride safe.
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Old 29th April 2010, 11:46   #10
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Heartiest congratulations DUCATISTA. Beautiful machine. Nice writeup. Ride safe buddy.
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Old 29th April 2010, 11:57   #11
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Beautifully written. The Italians will always bypass the head and go straight to the soul.

That bike is pure poetry to even look at. I can't even imagine what it must be to ride (though your piece has certainly fired up that imagination ).

Congratulations man and yes I am so envious its not even funny.


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Old 29th April 2010, 11:58   #12
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whoa! that was an awesome narration. congratulations on owning the ducati, its still a distant dream for me, lets hope i own one soon.

your bike looks fantastic, love the black/red combination.
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Old 29th April 2010, 12:42   #13
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What a read. Terrific.


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Old 29th April 2010, 12:47   #14
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Congrats on owing a Duc. most of us only dream of owing a sport bike. you are the lucky one so ride safe and enjoy
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Old 29th April 2010, 13:13   #15
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Rated this thread five stars. I'm not a biker or a bike fan as such but your style of writing had me glued.

Excellent stuff & wish you a lifetime of joy & fun ahead
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